Published on July 19, 2014
Kanlurang Asya: Kanlurang Asya Jordan: Jordan Jordan (country) or Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, kingdom in the Middle East. Its full official name is Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan (Arabic Al Mamlakah al Urdunniyah al Hashimiyah ). The term Hashemite refers to the Jordanian monarchy’s claim of descent from Hashim , the grandfather of Muhammad, the prophet of Islam. Jordan’s arid desert landscape and few natural resources belie its importance in the history of the modern Middle East. The territory was part of the Ottoman Empire, which was dismantled after World War I (1914-1918) and replaced, in this part of the Middle East, by British and French control. Transjordan—the territory east of the Jordan River—came under British control, as did Palestine to the west of the Jordan River. Transjordan’s status as an independent kingdom was recognized in 1946 (the kingdom’s name was changed to Jordan in 1949). Jordan River: Jordan River Jordan River: Jordan River The Jordan River ( American English ) or River Jordan ( British English ) ( Hebrew : נהר הירדן Nehar haYarden , Arabic : نهر الأردن Nahr al- Urdun ) is a 251 kilometres (156 mi) long river in West Asia flowing to the Dead Sea . Currently, the river serves as the eastern border of the State of Israel and of the disputed Palestinian Territories . In Christian tradition, Jesus was baptised in it by John the Baptist . The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan takes its name from this river . Iran: Iran Iran, officially the Islamic Republic of Iran, country in southwestern Asia, located on the northeastern shore of the Persian Gulf. One of the world's most mountainous countries, Iran contains Mount Damāvand , the highest peak in Asia west of the Himalayas. The country’s population, while ethnically and linguistically diverse, is almost entirely Muslim. For centuries, the region has been the center of the Shia branch of Islam ( see Shia Islam). Iran ranks among the world’s leaders in its reserves of oil and natural gas. As is the case in other countries in the petroleum-rich Persian Gulf region, the export of oil has dominated Iran’s economy since the early 20th century. In the 6th century bc the territory of present-day Iran was the center of the Persian Empire, the world’s preeminent power at that time. For more than 2,000 years, the region’s inhabitants have referred to it by the name Iran, derived from the Aryan tribes who settled the area long ago. However, until 1935, when the Iranian ruler demanded that the name Iran be used, the English-speaking world knew the country as Persia, a legacy of the Greeks who named the region after its most important province, Pars (present-day Fārs ). Iran was a monarchy ruled by a shah, or king, almost without interruption from 1501 until 1979, when a yearlong popular revolution led by the Shia clergy culminated in the overthrow of the monarchy and the establishment of an Islamic republic. Elburz Mts.: Elburz Mts. Elburz Mountains, mountain range, northern Iran, extending along the southern shore of the Caspian Sea. The range marks the northern limit of the Iranian Plateau. The Elburz have an average altitude of about 1524 m (about 5000 ft). The highest peak in the system, Mount Damāvand , is 5,610 m (18,406 ft) above sea level. Mt. Damavand: Mt. Damavand Mount Damāvand , also called Mount Demavend, extinct volcano in northern Iran, near Tehrān (Teheran). It rises 5,610 m (18,406 ft) above sea level and is the loftiest peak of the Elburz Mountains. The summit is conical and the crater still intact. At the base are many hot springs, giving evidence of volcanic heat comparatively near the surface of the earth. Mount Damāvand was first ascended by a European, W. Taylor Thomson, in 1837. The nearby town of Damāvand is a popular summer resort. Saudi Arabia: Saudi Arabia Saudi Arabia, monarchy in southwestern Asia, occupying most of the Arabian Peninsula. Saudi Arabia is a land of vast deserts and little rainfall. Huge deposits of oil and natural gas lie beneath the country’s surface. Saudi Arabia was a relatively poor nation before the discovery and exploitation of oil, but since the 1950s income from oil has made the country wealthy. The religion of Islam developed in the 7th century in what is now Saudi Arabia. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was founded in 1932 by Abdul Aziz ibn Saud, and it has been ruled by his descendants ever since. Saudi Arabia is bounded on the north by Jordan, Iraq, and Kuwait; on the east by the Persian Gulf and Qatar; on the southeast by the United Arab Emirates and Oman; on the south by Yemen; and on the west by the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aqaba. The country’s border with the United Arab Emirates is not precisely defined. Saudi Arabia has an area of about 2,240,000 sq km (about 864,900 sq mi). The capital and largest city is Riyadh. Riyadh: Riyadh Riyadh is the capital of Saudi Arabia, as well as its most populous city. An infusion of wealth from petroleum sales beginning in the 1940s helped transform Riyadh into a major metropolitan center, with a modern infrastructure and transportation system. Mecca: Mecca Also Makkah (ancient Macoraba ), city in western Saudi Arabia, located in the Al Ḩijāz (Hejaz) region, near Jiddah . Mecca is the birthplace of the Prophet Muhammad (the founder of Islam), the center of pilgrimage for Muslims, and the focal point of their daily prayers. In Arabic, the city is known as Makkah al- mukkaramah (“Mecca the blessed”). Pilgrimage to the city is one of the Five Pillars of Islam and is required of all able adult Muslims at least once in their lifetimes. The pilgrimage ( hajj in Arabic) is the defining factor in the growth and life of the city. The influx of close to 2 million pilgrims each year during the last month of the Islamic calendar is a grand human spectacle as well as one of the largest logistical and administrative undertakings in the world. United Arab Emirates: United Arab Emirates United Arab Emirates (UAE), federation of seven independent states located in the southeastern corner of the Arabian Peninsula, part of the Middle East region. Once known as the Trucial States, the UAE became an independent country in 1971. Each emirate (small state ruled by a hereditary chief called an emir) is centered on a coastal settlement and named for that settlement. The seven member emirates are Abu Dhabi (also known as Abū Zaby ), ‘ Ajmān , Dubai, Al Fujayrah , Ra’s al Khaymah, Ash Shāriqah , and Umm al Qaywayn . The city of Abu Dhabi is the federal capital, and Dubai is the largest city in the country. Dubai: Dubai Dubai, also Dubayy , city on the northeastern coast of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and the capital of the emirate of Dubai. The city is divided in half by Dubai Creek, which is actually an inlet of the Persian Gulf. The eastern side of the creek, the traditional city center, is called Deira (or Dayrah ), and the western side is referred to simply as Dubai. Dubai is the chief port and commercial center of the UAE, and the principal shipping, trading, and communications hub of the Persian Gulf region. Port Rashid, a large artificial port, lies within Dubai on the western side of the creek, and Jebel Ali, the largest artificial port in the world, is located 37 km (23 mi) down the coast to the southwest. Yemen: Yemen Yemen, country in the Middle East, occupying the southwestern corner of the Arabian Peninsula (Arabia). Tall mountains divide Yemen’s coastal stretches from a desolate desert interior. Yemen is sparsely populated—half of the country is uninhabitable—and its Arab people are largely rural. The site of several prosperous civilizations in ancient times, Yemen declined in importance and was a poor and forgotten land for more than a thousand years. The discovery of oil in the area in the late 20th century held out the prospect of economic development and an easier life for the people of Yemen. The Republic of Yemen was created in 1990 out of the unification of the Yemen Arab Republic (YAR) and the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen (PDRY). The YAR was commonly called North Yemen, and the PDRY was generally referred to as South Yemen, although South Yemen was actually less to the south than to the east and southeast of North Yemen. Sana‘a ( Sanaa ) is the Republic of Yemen’s capital and largest city. Sana’a: Sana’a City and political capital of Yemen, located in Sana‘a Province, on a plateau northeast of the port of Al Ḩudaydah . Sana‘a is the commercial center of a fruit-growing region. It is divided into two sections with the junction formed by the palace of the former imams, or rulers, of Yemen. The eastern section, known as the old city, has several mosques and a market where jewelry, silver and leather goods, silks, and carpets are made and sold. Lebanon: Lebanon Republic on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea in Southwest Asia. Lebanon’s coastal location, high mountain backbone, and climate have greatly influenced the country’s history, peoples, and economy. The coastal area of present-day Lebanon was settled more than 7,000 years ago and later evolved as the heart of seafaring Phoenicia. To help conduct their sea trade, the Phoenicians developed the first alphabet and colonized the western Mediterranean. In the early centuries ad , a largely Christian population and culture arose, which later blended with—though was not overwhelmed by—Islamic influences. Following centuries of Ottoman control, France ruled Lebanon under a League of Nations mandate after the Ottoman Empire was defeated in World War I (1914-1918). During World War II (1939-1945) Lebanon became an independent republic and for three decades prospered under a free-market economy. However, the country experienced increasing hostility among rival religious groups, especially between Christians and Muslims. These and other domestic tensions, intensified by foreign influences, erupted into the devastating Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990). Beirut is Lebanon’s capital, principal port, and largest city. Beirut : Beirut Capital and largest city of Lebanon, located on the Mediterranean Sea. Situated on a peninsula that projects slightly westward into the Mediterranean, Beirut is contained by the Lebanon Mountains that rise to the east. The Mediterranean climate of the city brings hot summers and mild winters, with high humidity in the summer. The Arabic name Beirut came from the Canaanite word for “wells” ( see Canaanites); the city was so named because of the underground water supply in the area. The area of the city is roughly 67 sq km (26 sq mi); some sites located outside the municipal boundary are commonly associated with the city. For decades a cultural and banking center for the Middle East, Beirut was devastated during the Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990). After the war, the city began a slow rebuilding process. By the start of the 21st century Beirut’s economy was recovering, and evidence of war damage was steadily disappearing. Cyprus: Cyprus Independent country and third largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, after Sicily and Sardinia. Cyprus lies in the northeastern part of the Mediterranean, about 65 km (40 mi) south of Turkey and 110 km (65 mi) west of Syria. Nicosia is the capital and largest city. Steep, narrow mountains line the island’s northern coast, and an extensive mountain system rises in the south. At the center of the island, between the mountains, lies the fertile Mesaoria plain, the site of Nicosia. Wide bays and small inlets indent the rocky coastline, which is broken in places by long, sandy beaches. Summers in Cyprus are hot and dry, and rain is scarce on the island, except during the winter months. Cyprus is vulnerable to drought, and most crops require irrigation Nicosia: Nicosia city in northern Cyprus, capital of the country, on the Pedhieos River. Nicosia is mainly a commercial and administrative center and has some small-scale manufacturing industries. Products include processed food, clothing, textiles, and footwear. The city is served by an international airport at Larnaca , about 34 km (about 21 mi) to the southeast. Selimiye Mosque (1209-1325), formerly the Cathedral of Saint Sophia, is a major landmark. Also of interest are the Cyprus Museum, the Cyprus Historical Museum and Archives, and the Folk Art Museum. Israel: Israel Israel (country), country in southwestern Asia, formed in 1948 as a Jewish state in the historic region of Palestine, and located on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea. Israel is bounded on the north by Lebanon, on the northeast by Syria, on the east by Jordan, and on the southwest by Egypt. Its southernmost tip extends to the Gulf of Aqaba, an arm of the Red Sea. Israel’s isolated position as a Jewish state surrounded by Arab and predominantly Islamic countries has influenced nearly every aspect of its foreign relations, demography, and economic policy throughout its history. The origins of the present-day struggle between Israel and Arab nations predate the creation of Israel. Throughout the early 20th century Palestine, as the birthplace of Judaism and site of the ancient Hebrew Kingdom of Israel, became a center of Jewish immigration, encouraged and organized by a movement known as Zionism. Jews clashed with the Palestinian Arab inhabitants of the region throughout the British administration of Palestine from 1918 to 1948. In the years after World War II (1939-1945) the United Nations (UN) developed a plan to partition Palestine into separate Jewish and Arab states. Jerusalem: Jerusalem Jerusalem (Hebrew Yerushalayim ; Arabic Al Quds ), city lying at the intersection of Israel and the West Bank, located between the Mediterranean Sea and the Dead Sea, about 50 km (about 30 mi) southeast of the Israeli city of Tel Aviv- Yafo . Jerusalem is composed of two distinct sections: West Jerusalem and East Jerusalem. West Jerusalem, which is inhabited almost entirely by Jews, has been part of Israel since Israel was established in 1948. East Jerusalem, which has a large Palestinian Arab population and recently constructed Jewish areas, was held by Jordan between 1949 and the Six-Day War of 1967. During the war, East Jerusalem was captured by Israel, which has administered it since. Israel claims that Jerusalem is its capital, but Palestinians dispute the claim and the United Nations has not recognized it as such. Jews, Christians, and Muslims consider Jerusalem a holy city, and it contains sites sacred to all three religions. . Mt. Zion: Mt. Zion Mount Zion is the eastermost hill lying in the Old City section of Jerusalem. The hill, whose name came to signify the “holy hill” of God, was the center of political and cultural life of the ancient Hebrews. Bahrain: Bahrain Officially Kingdom of Bahrain, independent Arab nation in western Asia, part of the region known as the Middle East. Bahrain is made up of 36 islands on the western side of the Persian Gulf, between Saudi Arabia to the east and Qatar to the west. The main island, also known as Bahrain, is home to the country’s capital and largest city, Manama. . Bahrain entered recorded history about 5,000 years ago as a commercial trading center. Long under the influence of more powerful neighbors, it came under the domination of Iran in the 17th century. The al-Khalifa family, originating from the central Arabian Peninsula, established themselves as Bahrain’s rulers in 1783 and has ruled ever since. A series of treaties in the 19th century gave Britain control over Bahrain’s defense and foreign affairs. The British influence lasted until Bahrain became independent in 1971 . Manama: Manama Manama, also Al Manamah, city in northeastern Bahrain, capital of the country, on the northeastern shore of Bahrain Island, in the Persian Gulf, near Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. The port developed and the city began to be modernized in the 1950s and 1960s, as a result of proceeds from the sale of petroleum. Industries include oil refining, dhow (an Arab boat with triangular sail) building, fishing, and pearling; pearling was once the city's chief economic activity. The town is connected by a causeway with adjoining Al Muḩarraq , site of an international airport. In 1958 Manama was declared a free-transit port. The Arabian Gulf University (1980) and the University of Bahrain (1986) are here. Population (2003 estimate) 139,000. Qatar: Qatar Qatar, nation occupying the Qatar Peninsula, which extends northward from the eastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula into the Persian Gulf. Saudi Arabia shares Qatar’s southern border, and the island nation of Bahrain lies off its western shores. Like most of Arabia, the Qatar Peninsula is a hot and dry desert land with no surface water and few native plants and animals. Most of the people live in cities, particularly Doha, the national capital. The country is rich in oil and natural gas, and the exploitation of these resources dominates its prosperous economy. The al- Thani clan has ruled Qatar as an emirate (a monarchy with an emir as head of state) since the late 19th century. Like several of its neighbors, Qatar came under British protection in the early 20th century. It became fully independent in 1971. The emirate was a relatively poor state until the mid-20th century, when its vast petroleum reserves were discovered and exploited. Qatar is now one of the world’s wealthiest countries per capita. Doha: Doha Doha, also Ad Dawḩah , eastern Qatar, capital and largest city of the country, on the Persian Gulf. It has a large, artificial deepwater port, which was opened in 1969 and serves as a major transshipment center for cargo of the Persian Gulf nations. Shrimping and shrimp processing are important industries. The University of Qatar (1973) and the National Museum (1975) are here. The marketplace and the Government House (1969) are major landmarks. More than half the population of Qatar resides in Doha. Iraq: Iraq Iraq, country in the Middle East that has been central to three wars since 1980. Some of the world’s greatest ancient civilizations—Assyria, Babylonia, and Sumer—developed in the area that now makes up Iraq. The modern state of Iraq was created in 1920 by the British government, whose forces had occupied it during World War I (1914-1918). The country is officially named the Republic of Iraq ( Al Jumhūrīyah al-‘ Iraqia in Arabic). Baghdād is the capital and largest city. Iraq is situated at the northern tip of the Persian Gulf. Its coastline along the gulf is only 30 km (19 mi) long. Thus, the country is nearly landlocked. Its only port on the gulf, Umm Qaşr , is small and located on shallow water, and only small craft can dock there. Iraq is potentially one of the richest countries in the world. It contains enormous deposits of petroleum and natural gas. It is endowed with large quantities of water, supplied by its two main rivers, the Tigris and the Euphrates, and their tributaries. Iraq’s location between those two great rivers gave rise to its ancient Greek name, Mesopotamia (“the land between the rivers”). Most of Iraq’s people are Arabs. Iraq has been politically active in the Arab world, with most of its regimes trying to advance pan-Arab or partial Arab political unification under Iraqi leadership. The country has had tense relations with its eastern neighbor, Iran, resulting in a costly war in the 1980s ( see Iran-Iraq War). At times it has claimed neighboring Kuwait, most recently in 1990, leading to the Persian Gulf War in 1991. Iraq was involved in all the Arab-Israeli wars except the Suez Crisis of 1956 ( see Arab-Israeli Conflict). Set up as a monarchy, Iraq became a republic in 1958. It became a dictatorship dominated by a single party in 1968. That dictatorship came under the control of Saddam Hussein in 1979. Under his leadership, Iraq’s regional and foreign policies were ambitious, often involving great risk. In the late 20th century Iraq attained a high international profile, unprecedented in the modern history of the Middle East, but at an exorbitant political price. The dictatorship failed in various attempts to topple Arab regimes and to achieve leadership status in the Arab world or even in the Persian Gulf region. It failed in eight years of war in the 1980s to bring down the regime of neighboring Iran. It conquered Kuwait in 1990 but was forced to relinquish it by a coalition of Western and Arab countries in the Persian Gulf War. Baghdad: Baghdad Baghdād or Bagdad, capital of Iraq, in central Iraq, on the Tigris River. Baghdād is the center of air, road, and railroad transportation in Iraq. It is the leading manufacturing city of the country, with oil refineries, food-processing plants, tanneries, and textile mills. Among the handcrafted wares produced in Baghdād are cloth, household utensils, jewelry, leather goods, felt, and rugs, which may be purchased in the bazaars. Consisting of rows of small shops or stalls, these bazaars have long been a feature of the city. Educational institutions in the city include the University of Baghdād (1957), al- Mustansiriyah University (1963), and the University of Technology (1974). Syria: Syria Syria (Arabic Suriyah ), officially Al Jumhuriyah al Arabiyah as Suriyah (Syrian Arab Republic), republic in southwestern Asia, bounded on the north by Turkey, on the east by Iraq, on the south by Jordan and Israel, and on the west by Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea. Syria has an area of 185,180 sq km (71,498 sq mi). The capital and largest city is Damascus, also spelled Dimashq . Damascus: Damascus Damascus or Dimashq , capital and chief city of Syria, in southwestern Syria, on the Baradá River, near the Anti-Lebanon Mountains in the southwestern part of the country. The greater part of Damascus, including the rectangular ancient city, is on the south bank of the Baradá . Modern suburbs extend from the north bank. Damascus has long been an important commercial center. In former times it was famous for dried fruit, wine, wool, linens, and silks. Damask, a type of patterned fabric, was named for the silk fabrics woven in Damascus. The city was notable also for the manufacture and transshipment of damascened steel sword blades, which were exceptionally hard and resilient. Today the city is the trading center for figs, almonds, and other fruit produced in the surrounding region. Industries in Damascus include handicrafts, such as the weaving of silk cloth and the making of leather goods, filigreed gold and silver objects, and inlaid wooden, copper, and brass articles. Among the city's other manufactures are processed food, clothing, and printed material Oman: Oman Oman, nation occupying the southeastern corner of the Arabian Peninsula ( see Arabia). Oman is a desert country in which high mountain peaks gaze down on dazzling white sand beaches. It is the principal home of the Ibadis , a minority Islamic sect distinct from both Sunni and Shia Islam ( see Islam). For centuries a hub of Indian Ocean trade, Oman was an imperial power from the 17th through the 19th century. Oman is ruled by a monarch called a sultan, and the country’s official name is the Sultanate of Oman. Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) border Oman to the west. The Arabian Sea (part of the Indian Ocean) lies to the east and the Gulf of Oman to the north. Its northernmost extension, on the Musandam Peninsula (separated from the rest of Oman by the UAE), overlooks the Strait of Hormuz and has a few miles of Persian Gulf coastline. Masqaţ , also known as Muscat, is the capital of Oman and the center of the country’s largest metropolitan area. Muscat: Muscat Masqaţ or Muscat, city and capital of Oman, located on the northeastern coast of the country on the Gulf of Oman (an arm of the Arabian Sea, itself part of the Indian Ocean). Flanked by steep cliffs and hills, the city lies almost exactly on the Tropic of Cancer. Masqaţ is the center of an expanding metropolitan area encompassing several neighboring cities. Once the country’s leading port, Masqaţ’s harbor has been surpassed by the nearby modern port facilities at Maţraḩ and Mina Qaboos . Also close to Masqaţ are Mina al- Fahl , a loading terminal for oil supertankers and, farther west, an international airport. Modern highways link Masqaţ with other Omani cities and with the United Arab Emirates . Kuwait: Kuwait Kuwait (country), nation in the Middle East, located at the northwestern tip of the Persian Gulf. Kuwait is a small, desert country, but it possesses a strategic stretch of Persian Gulf coastline and significant petroleum reserves. Kuwaiti citizens, who are Arab Muslims, make up less than half of the country’s population—most of the remainder are immigrant workers. . For many years Kuwait was a minor emirate whose economy centered on sea trade and especially pearl exports. The discovery of oil in the 20th century transformed all aspects of Kuwaiti society, and today the country has one of the highest per capita incomes in the world. In 1990 neighboring Iraq invaded Kuwait, precipitating the 1991 Persian Gulf War, in which an international force expelled the Iraqis . Kuwait City: Kuwait City Kuwait (city), city, capital of Kuwait and a port on Kuwait Bay (an arm of the Persian Gulf). Also called Al Kuwait. Wealth from oil fields in the coastal desert and in the gulf has been used to make the city one of the most modern in the Middle East. An important oil port, Kuwait produces petrochemicals and other petroleum products and is a trade and financial center. Shrimp and pearls are obtained from the Persian Gulf. The city is the site of Kuwait University (1962); vocational, technical, and teachers colleges; and a state museum. Founded in the early 18th century, Kuwait was once considered a terminus for a projected Berlin- Baghdād railway. It began to expand after World War II. In the early 1990s, however, it faced the difficulties of recovering from the severe damage inflicted during the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait and the Persian Gulf War. The name is also spelled Al Kuwayt , Kuweit , or Koweit . Population (2003 estimate) 1,222,000.